Monday, 7 June 2010

Refreshing Church

Good time at Connect last night.  Connect is sort of an alternative church type thing that meets up every two or three weeks.  Not sure if it's sponsored by Levenshulme Baptist Church or Urban Expression Manchester, bit of both I guess - these things tend to be a bit messy round here.  The format last night was: gather and chat, watch a short video, natter, pray, meditate.  Despite all my best intentions over the past couple of years this was my first time.  Thought I'd stick some observations up here just in case anyone's interested.

Good stuff:
  • friendly atmosphere - got the sense that it really is as inclusive as it claims to be, can't imagine anyone not getting a welcome
  • amateur in the best sense of that word - low on glitz high on  sincerity 
  • permission to say what you think and what you wonder - there really was an absence of any sense of oppressive orthodoxy
  • seemed to be light on structure - people arrived when they could and left when they had to; the conversation was allowed to run on as long as it needed to and to end when it seemed right
  • a natural, relaxed and unembarrassed bit of praying for needs that had been shared during the discussion
  • the setting - a no nonsense Caribbean cafe called The Retreat on the A6 - really liked the view from the big glass sliding doors straight out onto the busy pavement, enjoyed people having a bit of a pike as they walked past, also liked the noise leakage from laughing teenagers to wailing sirens and the background rumble of traffic all of which made it feel like a real-life happening 
  • the food - well if you can call it that, midget gems, hula hoops, smokey bacon crisps and either mango juice or ginger beer, wierd is good, right?
  • the Nooma vid - seemed to work as a discussion starter.  
Could have been a bit better stuff:
  • would have been good to have had a Bible reading as part of the concluding meditation 
  • a few more blokes perhaps (three of us out of twelve) - although maybe not, I wonder if tipping the hormone balance away from estrogen in favour testosterone might have made it a bit more difficult for some of the women to share as freely as they did.  
All in all a very encouraging couple of hours.  Proof definite of the need for the church actively to generate the kind of space that's within touching distance of regular congregational life but which is also free enough for people to stay at arm's length if they so choose.  I can't imagine the group of people who met last night sharing in the way they did at a regular church gathering

So a big thank you to Ian and Jean for making it happen.  I look forward to the next one.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Missional In Suburbia

New website, Missional In Suburbia.

Does what it says in the URL.

HT Tim Chester.

Spirituality Report

Ghosts of Rhyolite  
Originally uploaded by Chris28mm
"Hey you're a vicar aren't you? Does that mean that you've had spiritual experiences? You know like ghosts and things." (My cousin in conversation at a recent family party.)
Just discovered that Understanding The Spirituality Of People Who Don't Go To Church, David Hay and Kay Hunt's widely quoted report of their research at Nottingham University back in 2000 is available (free) as a downloadable PDF from the Mission Theological Advisory Group's Spiritual Journeys site.

I use this quite a bit in teaching (we'll be looking at it again in our upcoming Summer School on Postmodern Spirituality) and it's good to see it readily available again. If you are not familiar with the report go take a look. It's a carefully researched piece of work that offers a very helpful insight into the spiritual experiences and outlook of, well, as it says, people who don't go to church.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Which Film?

madrid 1910 watercolour  
Originally uploaded by edward olive
Spent most of the day planning and prepping for our upcoming summer school on Postmodern Spirituality.

I'm doing a session on spirituality and film which will look at a broad range of approaches to the spiritual in recent/contemporary film ranging from the explicitly religious (think Stigmata) thru to the more broadly aesthetic which might not be out and out spiritual but which nonetheless is concerned to see beyond the merely material to something other (think the paper bag blowing in the wind in American Beauty or Billy's Kestrel stilling the world in Kes).

As well as doing the analytical stuff I will also be showing a film on one of the evenings. Question is which film? It's not that I can't think of one but rather that I can't decide which. What would you you opt for? Remember what I'm looking at is not so much the out and out Christian God stuff but film as one of the media in which the spiritual questioning and questing of our age finds expression. Any ideas?